Communities don’t want affordable housing

By Bob Harris

For months City Hall has been pushing plans to expand affordable housing in spite of the fact that 90 percent of the community boards in New York City and all the borough boards have opposed them. The mayor says that he needs new zoning rules while civic groups of all kinds in all the boroughs oppose the massive 483 pages he pushed through the City Planning Commission and now wants the New York City Council to approve.

Civic leaders representing civic groups have sent letters and testified at community board hearings throughout the city against the new zoning proposals. Most groups, except the builders and real estate groups, oppose these proposals. Civic groups have spent decades fine-tuning the Zoning Resolution to protect the quality of life in localities from Lower Manhattan to the miles of homes stretching from Queens into Brooklyn. Thousands of civic leaders have attended hundreds of meetings over the decades to protect their neighborhoods.

People are fearful that increased density will ruin communities all over our city. People often talk about not changing the character of a neighborhood. This term is like the term “quality of life.” The people want to preserve the fine neighborhoods they now have. They know what they want, but city officials don’t seem to want to listen. The proposals don’t provide for enough parking in the new buildings to be built. People living in neighborhoods that will be changed feel that the new housing will not be affordable for them.

Some people believe that one proposal for the whole city does not take into account differences in communities. City officials say that if people live less than 10 blocks from some city transportation then they don’t need a car or parking. Look at the freezing weather we just had. Other people feel that the city did not hold hearings when the plans were being written to get local input.

Areas in Manhattan like the East Village, Far West Village, South Village and University Place/Broadway Corridor all testified against the new zoning proposals because they don’t want more density. The Queens Civic Congress, which represents approximately 100 civic groups in Queens, also sent letters and testified against the proposals. The big question is, “How many City Council members will listen to their constituents and vote against these disastrous new zoning changes?”

Experienced volunteer civic leaders are fearful of the illegal building which developers may do so they can make more money from these proposals. Current zoning and building regulations are constantly violated without consequences to the violators. The Department of Buildings has a bad habit of not gaining entrance into a building where a violation has been reported. If a building inspector tries to gain entrance three times and is refused, then the inspector writes “resolved” and closes the case. Knowledgeable civic leaders want the DOB to use the terms “dropped” or “not pursued.”

Then there is the problem that the Department of Finance just does not collect fines if they are imposed. Some people think the fines are just too small to make collecting them financially valuable. With all these problems, civic leaders contend that the new zoning rules will be violated at will and the quality of life will be lowered.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Charter schools are still in the news. While proponents say they are helping students, opponents say they exclude special-needs children, ESL students and disruptive students. Other opponents say that children who break a rule are suspended. A memo from one charter school had a list of “Got to go” students. Stories abound of children punished for the smallest infraction and children being yelled at so much that they vomit. Some parents are suing a charter school saying their children are not receiving the (costly) services they are supposed to receive. What is the truth?

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